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GB raises hope during Mental Health Awareness Week

13 May 2019

This week (13-19 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) and this year’s theme is focussed on body image and how it impacts our mental health.

The term ‘body image’ is used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and well-being.

What are girls are telling us?

A new survey of 1,118 UK teenagers (aged 13-18) by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that 37% felt upset about their body image. While body image concerns affect both boys and girls, girls are more likely to experience body dissatisfaction than boys. In the Mental Health Foundation survey, 46% of girls reported that their body image causes them to worry ‘often’ or ‘always’ compared to 25% of boys.

Body dissatisfaction can have huge consequences for girls’ well-being, relationships and ability to enjoy themselves. Girls who are less happy with how they look will be less likely to play sports and will be less confident in job interviews.

What causes body dissatisfaction?

At GB’s Esther Generation Weekend last February, our own GB members told us that issues like our culture’s strive for perfectionism, unrealistic airbrushed images in advertising and gender stereotypes are impacting their mental well-being. Parents, family members and peers also influence how we perceive ourselves and in our hyper-connected word, social media also plays a huge factor. For example, 54% of girls in the Mental Health Foundation survey said that images on social media have caused them to be anxious about their own body image.

How can we support girls to thrive and flourish?

GB’s Mission and Advocacy Enabler Dr Claire Rush shares ‘Body anxiety can be prevented. We need to change our cultural values, parenting styles, schooling approaches, use of technology and advertising standards to make a real difference. But we can start by creating a more inclusive culture in our families, communities and GB groups, which demonstrate the Godly truth that our value doesn’t depend on our waist size.

‘As a GB leader, don’t underestimate the great job that you’re already doing. GB groups are safe environments for girls to explore faith and the issues that matter to them like mental health, as well as being invested in by older women. Through GB, girls are experiencing the life to the full that Jesus spoke about in John Ch.10:10.’

Chloe Twist, who participated in the Esther Generation Weekend 2018 and is a member of 26th Liverpool GB group, shares ‘GB has improved my mental well-being because it’s given me a wonderful support network which surrounds me.’

Be encouraged – you’re making a difference.

Here’s 5 ways we can continue to turn up the volume of hope on mental health and promote positive body image in our GB groups:

  • Words matter – as GB leaders, we’re role models. How we perceive and talk about our own bodies matters to the children and young people around us. We all need to be kinder to our own bodies and model positive body behaviour by not engaging with negative self-talk.
  • Use GB programme resources - lots of the GB holistic programme booklets touch on topics surrounding mental health (including body image) and help young people explore their emotions in fun and innovative ways. Find out exact titles here.
  • Share koko’s resilient film - koko is an online place for teenage girls, and a great free resource for youth leaders. Featuring the stories of two young women, our award-nominated Resilient film helps to shatter the silence surrounding mental health.
  • Get equipped – GB has facilitated special Volumise equipping days on mental health and self-worth. You can access 4 equipping short films (perfect for you to watch individually or with your local or district regional team) as well as free programme resources here.
  • Take care of yourself – are you longing for some time to pause and refresh? Would you like to find space with God? Do you want to learn new strategies to help you be and not to do? Join us on Saturday 6 - 7 July 2019 at Cliff College for a refreshing taster retreat on Ruth and Naomi for all GB England & Wales (GBEW) leaders. Find out more here. Or all women can join us for a longer retreat weekend in October, exploring the story of Ruth and what we can learn from it today. Find out more here.

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